The State Fair still weighs its coupons to figure out how much money it makes. Greasy coupons weigh more. Bret Redman

Fair Park

Why It’s Significant That the State Fair of Texas Will Finally Pay Its Full Security Bill

For years, the State Fair has operated as it has because no one has ever asked it operate otherwise. That's changing.

The State Fair of Texas is used to not having to pay for things it is supposed to. Last year, a city audit discovered that the State Fair hadn’t historically contributed the excess revenues it was obligated by its contract to re-invest in Fair Park, and the funds it did give to the city typically went to improve facilities used by the fair. Amidst criticism, the State Fair responded this year by giving the city $6 million for park upkeep.

Now it has come to light that the State Fair has not been paying enough for the security it receives from off-duty Dallas police officers. The estimated cost of the extra security is around $1 million. The State Fair has been paying the city roughly half that for the service. Not anymore. A Dallas City Council committee advanced a resolution yesterday that will hold the State Fair accountable for the full $1 million bill. The council is expected to approve the resolution tomorrow.

Here’s what jumps out to me about this story. When the State Fair was questioned about the shortfall, its spokesperson simply explained that they only paid $550,000 for the off-duty officers because no one ever asked them to pay anything more than that.

“We always paid what they asked,” the spokesperson said, according to the DMN.

Which pretty sums up all of the problems with Fair Park. Yes, the State Fair is a big, giant behemoth with questionable accounting practices and operational practices that have chased out most of the other organizations that once called Fair Park home. Yes, the State Fair’s operations and calendar all but ensure that, when the fair is not on, Fair Park can only function as a temporary staging ground for large-scale events. Yes, the State Fair of Texas has historically practiced a policy of walling itself off from the surrounding neighborhoods, including seizing properties to create massive parking lot moats and purchasing homes and lots within those neighborhoods and allowing them to contribute to the continued blight of those neighborhoods.

But has anyone at the city ever asked the State Fair to do anything but operate in this manner? Until recently, the answer is no. Until recently, it was accepted Dallas dogma that the establishment that ran City Hall also ran the State Fair, and one existed to serve the other. That’s why these recent efforts to get the State Fair to pay its, er, fair share are much more than mere housekeeping matters. They are fissures created by deeper rumblings of a cultural sea change — in City Hall, and within the city of Dallas at large. New ideas, new priorities. It’s what Dallas needs. And in Dallas, radical change can sometimes look as banal as asking the State Fair to pay its bills.

Comments

  • Candy Evans

    Great post and very good news for our city and taxpayers!

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  • Wylie H Dallas

    I’m confused. This memo appears to claim that the true cost of providing services to the State Fair is $2.8 million. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/38741e529bc9ad2d78e614239783b2ee5d565656f98b60ecd472828390c3a6e0.jpg

    • Pol Pot

      Good point. Has the fair been paying the straight time and is just now getting around to paying the overtime as well or are things even worse than we thought?

    • Mavdog

      from the linked DMN article:
      “But the reimbursement still doesn’t represent the true cost of policing the State Fair, which draws about 2.4 million visitors over the course of 24 days. The Dallas Police Department also had officers working on duty at and around the fairgrounds.”

      I read the SFT is paying the money for an estimated cost for the off-duty police, not paying for on-duty police.

    • Candy Evans

      Well then that’s what they should pay. That’s $1.8 million for roads or future statue removal 🙂

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    • Poetaster Dallas

      Wylie, and what about the record shortages of personnel. How will pulling people off regular duty to work the State Fair not have a deleterious effect on the rest of the city’s police coverage?

      The financial side is pretty easy. If they want to pay for $1 million of police coverage, they get $1 million of police coverage. If this is overtime on top of their regular duties, they pay the overtime rate. It’s business. No more.

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  • Philip Kingston

    It’s not even close to full freight. Why would DMN and D team up to deceive the public?

    • C Newman

      Why has the city never asked them for the full freight?

      • Mavdog

        From Peter’s writing above:
        “Until recently, it was accepted Dallas dogma that the establishment that ran City Hall also ran the State Fair, and one existed to serve the other.”

        • C Newman

          Since that’s not an actual answer or from anyone who might actually know the real reasons, was hoping that Philip might be able to give a fact based answer. Possibly that at some point the cost was $550,000 or was right around that for a few years in a row, and instead of sending an actual bill for the true amounts some clerical scenario ensued where they just billed them the same amount as the prior year or the SFT just automatically sent a check for that amount.

          • Mavdog

            IDK why you question what Peter wrote, it is darn credible. Have you not been following the State Fair news over the last few years?

            Conjuring a scenario of a “clerical” mistake is pretty hilarious to be frank.

          • C Newman

            That is a fluff answer to the tune of “we don’t really know and at this point we’re not going to go back and see what actually took place”. Was an accounting of the amounts due performed and a bill sent? Was a bill sent at all? When did the billing of the actual amounts due stop? Why?

          • C Newman

            And I’m not questioning what Peter wrote. What he wrote is possibly an accumulation of the responses he might have received from questioning City Hall, but it is not a response that answers the questions.

          • Mavdog

            Above in a post from the mysterious Wylie H Dallas is a memo from the Interim Chief of Police asking for an accounting of the “approximate costs” the City incurred in October 2016 for the police utilized at the State Fair; the response was an estimate which was 5x the amount billed to the State Fair.

            It is obvious there was no intent by the City to bill the State Fair for the actual costs, a bill was sent at a number which had been used in prior years. There was no connection between the actual costs and the amount billed. That connection has never existed.

            Your question of “Why has the city never asked them for the full freight?” is answered by Peter’s comment in the article; because the City has failed to treat the SFT as a Tenant, but rather has been treating the SFT as its client, here to do its bidding without asking questions.

          • C Newman

            Your second paragraph is saying almost exactly the same as my “clerical” mistake comment you said was hilarious.

            Saw Wylie’s post as well and that is somewhat of a start to the answer. But again, saying that the City didn’t ask any questions because “accepted dogma” is the same as saying it didn’t happen because “because”. It’s a child-like non-answer.

          • Mavdog

            Oh, were you meaning the “clerical” mistake comment you made to be sarcasm? Then I apologize for not reading it as such….

            Again, please take the time to read about the history of how the City has kowtowed to the SFT. That history makes Peter’s comments accurate and certainly not a “childlike non-answer”.

          • C Newman

            Have kept up with the history and the reporting on the topic, appreciate the advice. Peter’s comments are accurate and I am not disagreeing with the concept of the entrenched city hall just bending over backwards for the SFT because supposed string pullers of each are the same people. Doesn’t change that they don’t explain how it got to the point that the SFT hasn’t been paying what they actually owed. Wylie can’t be the only one who is able to find paper trails and records. It went sideways at some point or even from the get-go, just curious to know how/when/why.

            Seems odd that people are cool with the response that “that’s just what was done”.